If you were lucky enough to take a trip to Disneyland as a child, you no doubt remember the bouquets of brightly colored balloons that towered over the crowds. And if you asked your mom really nicely and flashed your best set of puppy dog eyes, added in a few “please, oh please, oh please, I’ll be good all day!” you might have been granted an inflated Micky head to bob along with you while you made your way through the happiest place on earth.
If you’re a Japanese kid in November 2012, you will never have the chance to even covet a shiny Disney themed balloon because all traces of them have been wiped out of the park.
What the heck happened?!
Starting from Nov 21, Tokyo Disneyland suspended all sales of balloons within the park. The official reason as stated on the Tokyo Disneyland site is because of “supply difficulties related to the raw material put into the balloons.”
So in other words, they ran out of helium. After a little research, this is actually a serious problem.
Because helium is an inert gas that has extreme melting and boiling points, it is widely used by medical companies and high tech firms (also, at children’s birthday parties and in bored teenagers’ basements). Recently, due to the growth of the manufacturing industry in Asia, demand for helium in the region has skyrocketed. Even though helium is the second most abundant element in the universe, just like balloons in the possession of small children, most of the earth’s helium floats off into space.
In addition, the United States produces 75% of the world’s helium, most of which is located in the Texas panhandle, making it even more expensive for Japanese patrons to get their hands on the prized gas. Because of the high demand for helium and the rapid depletion of helium reserves, the price continues to rise steadily by an average of 6.9% each year.
At the height of the Christmas season, Tokyo Disneyland will not be filled with balloons bobbing and darting through the crowds.
Tokyo Disneyland, “Where dreams come true.” Not if you’re dreaming of buying a balloon.